More Love and Mercy

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know that I just saw the movie Love and Mercy, which is the story of Brian Wilson’s life. If you read my review, you’ll also know that I was crazy about the movie; that it affected me on many levels.


Three days have passed since I watched it and it is still stewing in my bones. There is one scene where the young, uncertain Brain Wilson plays a new composition for his father, Murray Wilson.


Old man Wilson was a musician himself. He composed jingles for television ads in his early days and may have written some other music. At this point in the story, however, he is on the business side of things, working as a producer and agent. He had managed The Beach Boys for a while, but by the time of this conversation, he had been fired from that job.


In the scene, he is seated on his couch with Brian before him at the piano. Brian plays and sings his new song, then turns around on the bench to get his father’s reaction. The anxious Brian tells his dad that the song is new and will get better with more work.


His father dismisses the new work. “It’s nothing but a musical suicide note,” he tells his son. He says that Brian is wasting his time and talent and ought to move in other directions. Brian is crushed and angry.


Of course, this is a movie, but it is an accurate movie, and I suspect that this scene is true to life, right down to the word.


The song that Brian played for his father was “God Only Knows.”


Sir Paul McCartney, no slouch of a songwriter himself, said that this song was the greatest piece of writing in all of pop music. It is one of the crown jewels of the album “Pet Sounds” which has been nearly universally hailed as one of the very best pop albums of all time. This song has entered modern consciousness. It is a part of our culture; a touchstone. It has lifted the hearts and satisfied the imaginations of thousands. It has been recorded countless times by other famous artists. Fifty years from now people will still be hearing and admiring that song.


What does this have to say to us writers? At least this: write from the heart, man, and do not be deterred. When Jesus went back to his hometown of Nazareth, his power was diminished. Here is what He said about that: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”


Copyright 2015

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2 Responses to More Love and Mercy

  1. Now I really want to see this movie. But first, a question for you. I’ve now read about Brian Wilson and all of the music critics who have analyzed his composition (God Only Knows) in terms that are so far over my head, I simply can’t comprehend. Chord changes, progressions, and the like. Seemingly very complex stuff. So here’s my question. Do you think Brian Wilson was thinking of all of this music stuff when he wrote the song, or do you think he was listenting to his inner voice and playing (writing) what he heard in his head? Was he calculating to be a genius, or was his genius in the music there for others to discover and declare? Do you know what I’m trying to ask?

  2. labeak52 says:

    I think he heard it in his head, like Mozart heard his compositions. Mozart said that he would get up after dinner, go for a walk and hear the music. Didn’t know where it came from. Neil Young says the same kind of thing. Inspiration for songwriting comes and goes. He said that he could never now write the kind of songs that he did in his youth.

    But I also think that when Brian Wilson heard the music he understood how it could be made – what the notes and chords and instrumentation would have to be.

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